See the Maldives your way

Czech-based travel company “other way holiday” offers customized travel

When going to an exotic location, you often have two choices: book an all-inclusive stay at a luxury hotel where you spend all your time at one beach, or go on your own to try to navigate through everything yourself.

Czech-based travel company “other way holiday” offers something in the middle for people who want to go to the Maldives, an island country in the Indian Ocean. The company arranges both group tours and individualized travel throughout the archipelago. Company founder Lucie Mohelníková has visited 72 of the islands, and through her experience knows the best places for whatever tourists want to do from diving with mantas to exploring uninhabited islands.

“We are a little bit special. We combine islands and we do customized trips to other islands using private speedboats and public ferries, which are very cheap, and even planes,” Mohelníková said. “In the Czech Republic and Slovakia there is no other travel agent that does this because it is very difficult.” Her company does not block book rooms in one place and then force the clients to use them, regardless of their interests. Instead she asks people what they want to do — lay on the beach, see wildlife, go diving — and how much they want to spend, and uses her knowledge of the islands to find the best options.

She likes to show her own pictures of the places. “I know where the good snorkeling is, and where there are beaches that aren't overused,” she said. “I don't send people to islands that aren't interesting.” Diving in the Maldives is some of the best in the world, but not all islands are the same. Some have specific things to see like coral reefs and whale sharks (which eat plankton, not people).

Her company can handle vacations on budgets from Kč 20,000 for a week up to Kč 1 million, not counting air fare. You can have an adventure holiday, or a symbolic wedding staged for photos.

Travel in the Maldives used to be limited to a handful of resort islands, but that changed in 2009 under the newly democratic government. Tourists can now travel freely in the country. This has created a new industry for local people to get involved in the travel industry. Mohelníková knows operators of guesthouses, small locally owned accommodations on different islands, as well as other places including luxury hotels. Tourists are forbidden from sleeping overnight in tents, so finding a good guesthouse is essential on some islands.

Guesthouse operators will do almost anything for the happiness of visitors, and it is usually possible to have lunch with the family that runs the place.

other way holiday” will create a complete itinerary of places to stay and how to get between them based on your budget and what you specifically want to see and do. People can stay a few days on one island for scuba diving, and then go to another island for its beach and yet a third for its wildlife. English is commonly spoken on the islands, which are a former British colony, so it is easy to communicate with the local people.

While a customized holiday might sound expensive, it doesn't have to be. Guesthouses and public ferries can add up to much less than spending the same time in an all-inclusive luxury hotel, and will likely be more fun for many people.

One slight drawback is that alcohol sales are quite limited, only on resort islands and tourist cruise boats. On islands where the local population lives there is no alcohol for sale and his import and consummation is strictly prohibited. But side trips can be arranged to the resort islands or even Sri Lanka for those who want to go.

Mohelníková first went to the Maldives in 2009, and shared her photos over social media. They were widely shared in the Maldives and when she went back the next year she had many new friends there. This built into a network, and in 2012 she opened “other way holiday” travel agency. She has worked with several documentary film crews who were looking for places with good diving for example, as well as both small and large groups.

No special visas are needed. People can stay up to 30 days, which can be extended for a smalll fee. US dollars are commonly spent alongside the local currency, but don't bring old banknotes as people won't acept them.

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